The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 194 cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths, the second day in a row of cases under 200, one week before Maine eases its indoor mask mandate.
State officials announced last week that fully vaccinated Mainers may forgo their masks in indoor settings starting May 24, following changes to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Restaurants, bars and similar establishments can also ease physical distancing measures, though the state is leaving it up to them to enforce masking among the unvaccinated.
Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 65,715 on Sunday. Of those, 48,348 have been confirmed by testing and 17,367 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 245.9.
Eight hundred two people have died with COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began. The Maine CDC initially reported two deaths on Saturday, bringing the cumulative total to 801, but then added a third that evening, saying the last death would be reflected in the agency’s data Sunday.
Unvaccinated people will still be asked to wear masks under the revised state mandate; since eligibility only extends to people 12 and older, that includes young children.
Meanwhile, some rural areas are seeing sustained high levels of COVID-19 transmission, along with reluctance among residents to receive a vaccine.
Turner resident Samantha Neal, 34, told the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram that she had no plans to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“There isn’t enough research. I just don’t want that in my body,” she said.
The COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have received “emergency use” authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which is not the same as full approval; however, studies across tens of thousands of recipients indicate little to no risk for serious side effects.
“COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” the U.S. CDC says on its vaccine safety info page. “Millions of people in the United States have received COVID-19 vaccines under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
Despite attempts by vaccine providers to bring doses to rural populations, demand has been low. A mobile vaccine clinic in Turner administered only about a third of its available shots over three days, and many of those who received them drove in from nearby towns.
In Androscoggin County, only about 39 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, compared to the statewide average of 46 percent. The county has the state’s highest rate of COVID-19 transmission, with 734 cases per 100,000 people.
By Sunday morning, Maine had given 670,585 people the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 633,691 had received a final dose. Out of the state’s population of 1.3 million, 49.89 percent had received a first dose.
Among people 12 and older, the population currently eligible for vaccination, 53.51 percent are now fully vaccinated.
County by county as of Sunday, there had been 7,963 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,790 in Aroostook, 16,851 in Cumberland, 1,305 in Franklin, 1,296 in Hancock, 6,203 in Kennebec, 1,097 in Knox, 996 in Lincoln, 3,482 in Oxford, 5,803 in Penobscot, 510 in Piscataquis, 1,394 in Sagadahoc, 2,092 in Somerset, 961 in Waldo, 855 in Washington and 13,117 in York.
By age, 18.4 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.3 percent were in their 20s, 15 percent were in their 30s, 13.5 percent were in their 40s, 14.6 percent were in their 50s, 10.4 percent were in their 60s, 5.4 percent were in their 70s, and 4.3 percent were 80 or older.
Around the world on Sunday, there were 162.5 million known cases of COVID-19 and 3.37 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 32.9 million cases and 585,709 deaths.
This story will be updated.